Dr. Robert G. Newman, who pioneered methadone upkeep as a protected substitute for heroin and struggled to redefine dependancy as a persistent medical situation that can’t be cured, died on Aug. 1 in Manhattan. He was 80.
He was struck by a automobile within the Bronx in June and by no means recovered from his accidents, his son, Seiji, stated.
An opportunity elevator encounter impressed Dr. Newman to create the world’s largest methadone upkeep program, establishing it in New York Metropolis underneath Mayor John V. Lindsay in 1970.
As an assistant well being commissioner for the town, he devoted his profession to destigmatizing opioid dependancy and remedy. He additionally served as president of Beth Israel Medical Heart, the place he presided over its partnership with St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Heart and different establishments in 1997 to kind Continuum Well being Companions.
As a hospital administrator, Dr. Newman advocated needle exchanges for addicts lengthy earlier than the AIDS outbreak generated broader assist for such controversial applications. He additionally opened an AIDS outpatient clinic, honored do-not-resuscitate requests when the sufferers’ rights motion was nonetheless nascent, and arrange one clinic that served homosexual ladies and one other that catered to Japanese sufferers.
He additionally broke ranks with colleagues at different medical facilities to ensure job safety to the hospital employees union.
Underneath his management, Beth Israel turned the world’s largest supplier of methadone, with about eight,000 sufferers by the point he retired from Continuum in 2001. From then till 2013, he directed the Baron Edmond de Rothschild Chemical Dependency Institute at Mount Sinai Beth Israel. (It has since been disbanded.)
In 2011, Dr. Newman predicted two penalties of the rising widespread abuse of prescription opioids. “I’m afraid it’s going to turn out to be progressively increasingly more troublesome to search out a health care provider who’s keen to deal with persistent ache optimally,” he stated, however “increasingly more individuals who don’t match the stereotype of the junkie will likely be acknowledged as having an issue and deserving assist.”
In an period when heroin dependancy was reaching epidemic dimensions and medical doctors in some jurisdictions might be prosecuted for prescribing methadone, Dr. Newman was recruited by Gordon Chase, Mayor Lindsay’s well being providers administrator, to broaden New York Metropolis’s program by such an extent that it might supply instant remedy to anybody who sought it.
“Gordon Chase’s compelling argument was this,” Dr. Newman recalled in a 2011 interview with William L. White, an dependancy researcher. “ ‘Think about a lady barging into your workplace sooner or later telling you her son, a long-term heroin addict, had utilized for remedy however was turned away by your program and placed on a ready listing since you had no room — after which died of an overdose.’ He stated, ‘Bob, you inform me what excuse for transferring sluggish you’ll give this lady that can elicit the response, “Oh, I perceive.” ’ ”
In its first 12 months, this system admitted 20,000 addicts who sought the day by day oral doses of methadone that block the longing for heroin. (He didn’t favor distribution of heroin.)
“It’s a medical drawback — for which a remedy exists, however for which for the time being a treatment doesn’t,” he stated.
When a personal clinic was closing, Dr. Newman commissioned an unused ferryboat as a short lived remedy heart and improvised by bringing the leftover methadone house at evening in his 1-year-old son’s stroller. He additionally began a short-term ambulatory detox program for heroin addicts.
“I’m satisfied,” he stated, “that if the town had not demonstrated — within the face of the prophecy of disaster from all — that huge enlargement nearly in a single day was attainable and might be efficient, this remedy would have continued to serve no quite a lot of thousand for years — maybe to this present day.”
Robert Gabriel Newman was born on Oct. 26, 1937, in The Hague, within the Netherlands, to Rudolph Newman and Eva Feilchenfeld Newman. They fled Europe in August 1939, lower than a month earlier than Germany invaded Poland. His mom was a choose in Berlin, and his father returned after the battle to prosecute executives of I. G. Farben, the German chemical firm, for battle crimes.
Robby, as he was recognized, was raised largely within the New York metropolitan space — in Mt. Vernon, Manhattan and Baldwin, on Lengthy Island, although he frolicked within the early 1950s in Frankfurt, Germany.
He earned a bachelor’s diploma in 1958 from New York College, a medical diploma from the College of Rochester Faculty of Drugs and Dentistry and a grasp’s in public well being from the College of California, Berkeley.
Along with his son, Seiji, he’s survived by his spouse, Seiko Kusuba Newman, whom he met whereas serving within the Air Power as a surgeon in Japan; their daughter, Hana Newman; three grandchildren; and his brothers, Thomas and Steven.
Dr. Newman additionally taught; from 1994 to 2012 he was a professor of epidemiology and inhabitants well being and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences on the Albert Einstein School of Drugs within the Bronx.
He attributed his social activism to his worldly upbringing as a young person and to the spirit of the 1960s.
“I by no means turned a revolutionary,” he stated, “however it made me consider communitywide points.”
He spent a lifetime debunking criticism that methadone upkeep was substituting a authorized excessive for a bootleg one, convincing skeptics that opioid dependancy couldn’t be solved with mere willpower and that abstinence after methadone remedy was unrealistic.
“It’s like evaluating the success or the effectiveness of contraception drugs by measuring the variety of pregnancies that happen within the 12 months after the drugs are discontinued,” Dr. Newman stated.
Contemplating that he devoted his total profession to dependancy, his introduction to it, in 1968, was serendipitous. After engaged on a diet survey for the town’s well being division, he returned to his studio condominium on Manhattan’s West Aspect one evening and was accosted within the elevator by a person who grabbed his sleeve and stated: “Aren’t you the physician who moved onto my flooring not too way back?”
“No matter sort of physician you want, fella, I ain’t that sort,” Dr. Newman replied. “I’m a public well being physician.”
The persistent neighbor turned out to be Herman Joseph, a probation officer who handled addicts and who insisted that Dr. Newman meet two methadone specialists, Dr. Marie Nyswander and her husband, Dr. Vincent P. Dole. He did and was captivated.
“I had by no means heard the phrase methadone, and I by no means considered dependancy,” Dr. Newman later recalled. “If I had missed that elevator, I in all probability could be a really rich orthopedic surgeon now.”